JFK (DVD, 2008, Special Edition Director's Cut) Reviews
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JFK (DVD, 2008, Special Edition Director's Cut)

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When You Don't Know the Truth, Make Something Up: JFK

Aug 24, 2006 (Updated Aug 24, 2006)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Cinematography, Editing, Score

Cons:Doesn't differentiate between history and speculation

The Bottom Line: An excellently made film that will provide grist for many "what if" discussions, but do not confuse JFK with history.


JFK (1991)

“Help, I'm stepping into the Twilight Zone
The place is a mad-house, feels like being cloned
My beacon's been moved under moon and star
Where am I to go now that I've gone too far?

Soon you will come to know
When the bullet hits the bone.” Twilight Zone Golden Earring


Oliver Stone’s JFK is a polarizing film, there’s no doubt about it. Viewers that believe that government lies and covers up will have plenty to appreciate while those who believe media news sources or even – heavens forbid! filmmakers! - present facts in a distorted framework will also have abundant grist for their mills. My personal question about Stone’s approach is, “why use a mixture of history and fiction?” Noted film director John Frankenheimer made a number of movies that took interesting scenarios that played on the audience’s fears presented in a faux documentary style, but never hinted that he was depicting history – only what if such and such happened?

I happen to believe that we’ll never know what happened for sure, but plenty of parties have made a ton of loot publishing accounts, books, periodicals, television stories, or movies about the JFK assassination. These various “reconstructions” have done as much as any government cover-up to muddy up the waters surrounding the events on that fatal day in November 1963.

A fact has been defined as “something demonstrated to exist or known to have existed.”* In other words, a fact is a point of objective reality that exists regardless of your or my belief in it or not. The reason I mention this is Oliver Stone was accused of “making up facts” at the time the movie was released.

Stone was more clever than that, however; taking his cue from the journalists who learned probably from statisticians or salesmen that how you present the facts can make all the difference in the conclusion you WANT the observer to draw.

Stone probably did not manufacture any facts to tell his story; what he did was assemble a framework to display the facts he chose to share that led viewers to conclude that there was a vast conspiracy behind the JFK Assassination. This is where the creative art lies in Stone’s work. He showed a bunch of possibilities that MAY HAVE led to the tragic events of November 22, 1963.

My personal view is the far-ranging conspiracy posited by Stone is laughable when you think of the inefficiency of government and how even the sister departments do not cooperate all that well – and thank God for that! - I might add. Not to mention the various other groups, Cubans, Cosa Nostra, Cajuns, CIA, and a variety of others.

Exactly how all these folks were to coordinate their diverse activities to synchronize on that single fateful split second in those pre-cellular, pre-satellite days is hard to believe. But, in light of events and the number of shots that must have been fired to wreak the damage that has been documented, there must have been more than one gunman… and a conspiracy really only takes TWO…

Much as many, if not most, Americans now think of the vaunted Warren Commission Report’s “magic bullet” as an elaborate myth, Stone’s JFK is an alternative, but still a myth no less. My title refers to the fact that many people, not just the Warren Commission dissenters or Oliver Stone, seem to want to see some kind of grand design behind the Kennedy Assassination.

Stone uses the Kennedy Assassination as a springboard to focus on a New Orleans prosecutor, Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner), who believed he could find glory by a single-handed crusade against “THE CONSPIRACY.” Costner in his wooden performance has only minor credibility playing Garrison, a flamboyant character in real life, who, like Stone, never seems to have met with a conspiracy theory he didn’t like. What Stone’s work lacks in historical credibility, it makes up for in spades in bravura cinematic presentation, editing, and scoring, by John Williams, of Indiana Jones fame.

The cast is peppered with dozens of familiar faces in the same way that The Greatest Story Ever Told was. Almost anybody who was somebody at the time makes an appearance; Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Donald Sutherland, Cissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci, the ubiquitous Kevin Bacon, and Gary Oldman as the notorious “Lee Harvey Oswald.” A complete cast list could go on for several paragraphs.

Possibly Oliver Stone’s biggest sin, to me, is his uncritical acceptance of the myriad theories espoused by writers Jim Garrison and Jim Marrs in their books that formed the basis for the screenplay. Many of the theories are outlandish and some have been discredited before the film was released as a little research would have shown, had Stone chosen to do it. If he didn’t check his sources, Stone was careless. If he did do the research, and released the questionable or even fully discredited information anyway, depicting it as gospel, then he is what his detractors accuse him of being: a bomb thrower mainly interested in stirring things up or perhaps self-aggrandizement - just like Jim Garrison appears to have been.

Watch JFK for yourself. It is a well-made movie that touches on historical figures, but it is NOT history.

Thanks for stopping by!

*American Heritage Dictionary

Also by Oliver Stone:

World Trade Center

Alexander


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